Lessons for Every Lawyer from My Cousin Vinny and more...



Lessons for Every Lawyer from My Cousin Vinny

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In honor of Bill Belichick’s reference to My Cousin Vinny in his notable press conference today about deflated balls, I’m re-posting my article on what the movie teaches us about the law. My Cousin Vinny is also listed as one of our top 10 legal films for writers in my nonfiction book, co-authored with Colleen Collins, A Lawyer’s Primer for Writers: From Crimes to Courtrooms.

We’re Not Talking Courtroom Etiquette

The film My Cousin Vinny, released in 1992, starred Joe Pesci, Marisa Tomei and Fred Gwynne. It’s a humorous courtroom drama about rough-around-the-edges New York lawyer Vincent LaGuardia “Vinny” Gambini (played by Pesci), fresh out of law school, who’s asked by his nephew and his nephew’s friend to save them from wrongful murder charges in a “redneck” Alabama court system. 

Vinny, whose law license is still wet with ink, gives one of the pithiest, funniest opening statements I’ve ever heard, in real life or fiction:

Everything that guy just said is bullshit. Thank you.”

Okay, so Vinny isn’t exactly a shining example of courtroom etiquette, but the movie has been praised by lawyers, this one included, for adhering to the realities of courtroom procedure and trial strategy.

Realistic Courtroom Confrontations

US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia cited My Cousin Vinny as an example of the principle that a client can choose his own lawyer. When the American Bar Association (ABA) journal invited lawyers to vote for their favorite fictional lawyers, Vinny Gambini ranked number twelve, with lawyers admiring Vinny’s technically correct courtroom confrontations.

Let’s look at one of those, starting with an expert witness introducing his qualifications:

Witness: I am a special automotive instructor of forensic studies for the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Vinny: How long have you been in this position?

Witness: 18 years.

Vinny: Your honor, may we approach the bench please?

Judge: If you wish.

Vinny: I object to this witness being called at this time. We’ve been given no prior notice he’d testify, no discovery of any tests he’s conducted or reports he’s prepared, and as the court is aware, the defense is entitled to advance notice of any witness who will testify, particularly those who will give scientific evidence, so that we could properly prepare for cross-examination, as well as giving the defense the opportunity to have the witness’s reports reviewed by a defense expert, who might then be in a position to contradict the veracity of his conclusions.

Judge: Mr. Gambini, that is a lucid, intelligent, well-thought-out objection.

Vinny: Thank you, your honor.

Judge: Overruled.

There’s more to learn by watching this movie: Gambini’s interviews of clients, preparation of case theory, and his cross-examinations that reveal witnesses’ vulnerabilities.

 

Kaufman

Managing Partner at Shaun Kaufman Law
Shaun Kaufman has 30 years of in-court experience, with hundreds of hours spent defending numerous high-profile cases including homicide, white-collar theft and RICO offenses. Specialties: Criminal defense, personal injury, business litigation, DUI.

Shaun Kaufman Law: 303-309-0430

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Readers’ Favorite Articles in 2014

Below are the most-read articles in 2014 here at Shaun Kaufman Law. Thank you to my readers for your ongoing support, and here’s to everyone’s success, good health and happiness in 2015!

Top 10 Articles

Readers’ favorite type of article this year were on subjects involving the police. Throughout the year, the most popular article each week vacillated between my tips for what to wear to court and how to not be a cop magnet while driving.

Failing to use a turn signal is one reason police pull over vehicles

#10: Neighbors Gone Bad: How to Prevent Legal Disputes

#9: Sentencing: Tips for Preparing a Mitigation Package

#8: What Happens When the Police Shoot a Citizen

#7: Do It Yourself DUI/DMV Representation: Top Three Mistakes People Make

#6: Colorado Restraining Orders: Use and Abuse

#5: Should You Lie or Not Talk to the Police?

#4: Colorado Temporary vs. Permanent Protection Orders

#3: Lawyers and Private Investigators: A Symbiotic Relationship

#2: Sartorial Tips from a Lawyer: What to Wear to Court

#1: Don’t Be a Cop Magnet: Top 10 Reasons Police Pull Over Vehicles

 

Kaufman

Managing Partner at Shaun Kaufman Law
Shaun Kaufman has 30 years of in-court experience, with hundreds of hours spent defending numerous high-profile cases including homicide, white-collar theft and RICO offenses. Specialties: Criminal defense, personal injury, business litigation, DUI.

Shaun Kaufman Law: 303-309-0430

 

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Holiday Office Parties and DUIs: Enjoy the First, Avoid the Second

One of the last things you want after your office party this coming holiday is to get arrested for DUI (Driving Under the Influence). After all, it is bad enough confessing crushes at the water cooler…but it would far worse to go to work a few days after the office holiday party and have to explain to your supervisor that you need to take time off from work to go to court, and oh by the way, you’ll also be taking the bus to work for the next 90 days because your driver’s license is suspended.

No Holiday Party Exceptions to DUI Charges

There is no “holiday party” exception to drinking and driving charges. Officers are never tolerant of DUI drivers, and

How much can you drink at an office party and not be pulled over for a DUI?

they are less tolerant of them during holiday seasons. Courts act in a similar manner. The government sends a message to potential drinking drivers through billboards, radio and TV public service ads, which basically say “You will be caught, you will go to jail and you will lose your driving privileges.”

So now that you’ve been reminded that law enforcement is out there, and you know that they will be tough on people who are drinking and driving, how much can you safely drink and still drive?

Guidelines: How Much Alcohol to Drink

Your blood alcohol level is a significant part of determining whether you are going to be charged with or convicted of DUI. Drinking and driving safely is computed on how much alcohol is in our systems when we drive. A huge part of that is based on how fast we burn off, or metabolize, alcohol after we drink it. Doctors know that there are many variables in how people metabolize alcohol. However, before we go into specifics, let me give you a very loose guideline: for each ounce of alcohol consumed, wait 90-120 minutes before drinking alcohol again. For example, a 12-ounce beer or a six-ounce glass of wine or a 1.25-ounce shot of hard liquor has about an ounce of alcohol in it.

Keep these general guidelines in mind:

  • Do not assume that any mixed drink only has a “shot” of alcohol in it. A trick is to drink less, and to alternate alcohol with sparkling water, juice or soda.
  • Drink less at the end of a holiday party so that you have less alcohol in your system when you drive.

You should drink less, or not at all, if:

  • You weigh less than 140 pounds
  • You are drinking on an empty stomach
  • You take prescription medicine
  • You are sleepy, sick or worn down
  • You metabolize slowly (females have a slower metabolism and thus use up alcohol more slowly than males)

If you match any of the above, and you are going to drink, the best thing to do is to take a cab or to ride with a sober friend.

If you are charged with a holiday party DUI (or any DUI) in Colorado, call Shaun Kaufman Law at 303-309-0430. With your help, and the help of experts, he will examine the complex scientific and medical issues in your case and defend you with expertise and compassion.

Kaufman

Managing Partner at Shaun Kaufman Law
Shaun Kaufman has 30 years of in-court experience, with hundreds of hours spent defending numerous high-profile cases including homicide, white-collar theft and RICO offenses. Specialties: Criminal defense, personal injury, business litigation, DUI.

Shaun Kaufman Law: 303-309-0430

 

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DUI Apps: From Oh Crap to Mr. Checkpoint

There’s apps for all kinds of things these days, including a variety of DUI apps–some free, some for a nominal charge–that find sober rides home, locate DUI checkpoint and promote DUI defense. I’ve listed a few in alphabetical order.

Drive Sober Apps: Free

To promote safety on the roads, some states offer apps to aid those who have been drinking find a sober ride home. Here’s a few:

Kentucky: The Kentucky Office of Highway Safety offers Drive Sober Kentucky app that includes finding a ride, reporting drunk drivers and a blood alcohol estimator.

Wisconsin: The Wisconsin’s Department of Transportation offers a Drive Sober app that offers features similar to Kentucky’s.

Wyoming: The Wyoming Governor’s Council on impaired driving offers its app, Drive Sober Wyoming, which includes features similar to Kentucky’s and Wisconsin’s, as well as a Find a Taxi option.

Mr. Checkpoint: Free

It appears Mr. Checkpoint is available in California only. As its name implies, it provides locations of DUI checkpoints based on the app user’s region. There is also an option on its website to sign up for email alerts that list DUI checkpoints every Friday, Saturday and on holidays.

Oh Crap App: Free

Gotta love the name of this app, and its motto: Shut up, Wise up and Lawyer up.

Apparently DUI lawyers in Iowa first created the Oh Crap App to educate the public about their rights while being investigated for drunk driving, and I’ll also add that the Notify On-Call Attorney is a handy way to drum up business. There is also a Notify a Bail Bondsman function.

I have to wonder if someone who’s been drinking has the wherewithal to read and use this app, but that’s probably why there’s a big red “emergency” button labelled Oh Crap. The advice given to app users is to press this button when pulled over by law enforcement (this starts a 15-minute audio recording that a lawyer may later use).

The Oh Crap App is currently available for Iowa, Kansas and Wisconsin attorneys.

Kaufman

Managing Partner at Shaun Kaufman Law
Shaun Kaufman has 30 years of in-court experience, with hundreds of hours spent defending numerous high-profile cases including homicide, white-collar theft and RICO offenses. Specialties: Criminal defense, personal injury, business litigation, DUI.

Shaun Kaufman Law: 303-309-0430
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Google Glass: Privacy Issues and Backlashes to Glassholes

Photo courtesy of Antonio Zugaldia CC By 3.0

There’s a lot of talk about Google Glass and legalities these days. Let’s look at some of those issues, starting with a description of the device.

What Is Google Glass?

Basically, it is a wearable computer with a camera, microphone and display in the form of eye glasses that the wearer manipulates through voice commands, taps and even winking. The camera sees what the wearer sees, and the wearer can:

  • Record video, audio and photo.
  • Use GPS for location tracking and retrieving directions.
  • Connect to a smartphone for placing calls, texting and email.
Google Glass can connect to the Internet in one of two ways:

Google Glass – Photo courtesy of Mikepanhu CC By-SA 3.0

  • WiFi
  • The wearer’s smartphone.
All recorded data is stored on Google servers “in the cloud.” But even when offline, Google Glass is still able to record pictures and video.

Privacy Issues

It’s bad enough that other people cannot always tell if they are being recorded by Google Glass wearers, but also everything recorded is stored on Google’s servers “in the cloud.” And you know that everything on Google’s servers belongs to Google, right? Wanted to check because drafted email messages stored on Google’s servers were the reason the United States’ former director of the CIA, David Petraeus, resigned in 2012. Petraeus didn’t know that drafts of his emails to his lover were Google’s property.

Facial Recognition Built Into Glass?

According to the Electronic Privacy Information Center, it’s likely that facial recognition software will be built into Google Glass in the near future. That means a wearer can look at you and the Glass’s facial recognition software will “compute” your identity, then dredge up all kinds of information about you, such as your Twitter news feed, Facebook page, which legal blogs you read, and so on.

There currently is a technology patent for a detector that blurs people’s features when a portable camera is in the vicinity. Great, a software product that can thwart Google Glass, right? Sorry, but no. Google is currently seeking a patent for a contact lens Google Glass that would escape any public detection.

While seeking this patent, Google stated on its blog it “won’t add facial recognition features to our products without having strong privacy protections in place.”  Hmm, wonder what those strong privacy protections are. Not so long ago, 38 states, including the District of Columbia, reached a settlement for $7 million with Google over its illegal collection of data from wireless networks, including private WiFi networks of residential Internet users.

Banning Google Glass

Businesses are starting to ban Google Glasses being worn on their premises for liability and security issues. There are also concerns over wearers illegally recording others without their permission in two-party consent states, as well as wearers violating the Wiretap Act. 

Backlashes to “Glassholes”

There have been violent altercations between people not liking their privacy being violated by disrespectful Glass wearers (by the way, the moniker being used for a disrespectful Glass wearer is Glasshole — no, I’m not making that up). Recently, bar patrons in San Francisco and New York have attacked Glass wearers who appeared to be recording others without their permission.

Restaurant Owner Takes Heat for Banning Google Glass

When a restaurant, Feast, in the East Village kicked out a female patron who refused to take off her Google Glass, hundreds of “Glass groupies” rallied against the restaurant, accusing it of being discriminatory against “technology.” Feast’s owner, Brian Ghaw, refused to apologize for kicking out the woman. His customers, Ghaw said, “felt uncomfortable about having somebody who could potentially videotape them.” Ghaw’s restaurant remains a No Google Glass zone to this day.

What Kind of Places Are Banning Google Glass?

According to an article in SEJ, bars are the number entity to ban Google Glass. To read the other nine top spots, check out the article “Top 10 Places That Have Banned Google Glass.”

Interestingly enough, law firms aren’t on that list. Yet, anyway.

Kaufman

Managing Partner at Shaun Kaufman Law
Shaun Kaufman has 30 years of in-court experience, with hundreds of hours spent defending numerous high-profile cases including homicide, white-collar theft and RICO offenses. Specialties: Criminal defense, personal injury, business litigation, DUI.

Shaun Kaufman Law: 303-309-0430
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